The following is a commentary in an ongoing series of “Reflections” by John Mill. John Mill is the radio persona of Ronald Bruce Meyer and can be heard on “American Heathen.” “The American Heathen” Internet radio broadcast is aired, live, on Friday nights from 7:00pm-10:00pm Central time on ShockNetRadio.com
No Intelligence Displayed
A Reflection by Ronald Bruce Meyer
This week was the third anniversary of the release of the documentary film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008). And if you thought the issue of Intelligent Design vs. Evolution went away after the Dover School District decision in 2005, you haven’t been paying attention. I can tell you the debate lives on in Tennessee, where a bill passed the House of Representative last Thursday, April 7, to protect teachers who challenge the theory of evolution – and it was revealed in January that 13% of high school biology teachers – biology teachers! – actually back Biblical creationism.
And Expelled, winner of the 2009 Faith and Freedom Award, is a rallying point of the pro-Intelligent Design crowd. In it, actor and co-writer Ben Stein hosts the debate as one between the proposition that life on earth was the design of some unnamed intelligent designer vs. the theory that life evolved through undirected, natural processes. He charges that several academics have been “expelled” for challenging “Big Science” on the issue of Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, that is, for daring to take the Intelligent Design side.
If Expelled were an honest documentary, Stein and his production team would have interviewed those claiming to have been expelled, then looked for documentary evidence that this was directly as a result of a denial of academic freedom, then found those responsible for the expulsions and wrested an on-camera explanation from them. But they do not even attempt to do this – they pretty much take it on faith. Worse than that, the very premise of the film is biased: if anybody can be said to have been “expelled” for trying to get a hearing for Intelligent Design, the reason would not be denial of free speech or stifling of academic freedom: the reason would be as simple as scientists failing to actually do science!
If Expelled were an honest documentary, and Intelligent Design really is a scientific theory rather than a religious doctrine, then Stein and his production team would have done two things: (1) they would have stayed far away from pointing out the atheism of several high-profile evolutionary scientists, such as Professor Richard Dawkins, and (2) they would have identified the Intelligent Designer. They do not even attempt to do this. And not only is Evolution tied to Nazism, Communism, eugenics and abortion, but the film harps on the atheism of Intelligent Design’s enemies, and even goes so far as to point out the word “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence.
One of the funniest moments in the film is how one of the Intelligent Design advocates finessed the 2005 “Dover School District” decision. In which not only did ID get a well deserved legal drubbing as a “theory” but the dishonest religious motivations behind it were clearly exposed. This advocate just said court cases don’t matter!
But here is what does matter: If this were an honest documentary, and Stein and his production team were sincere in their assertion that Intelligent Design is a competing theory to Evolution and deserving of debate in academia, they would have spent at least a few of this film’s 90 minutes giving us an idea of what the Intelligent Design theory actually explains: that is what a theory does. Expelled does not state a theory for Intelligent Design, or raise one testable claim, or identify the Designer. Who is he? The question assumes the answer is a “who” and not a “what.” Even if we admit an Intelligent Designer, then what? There’s no need for science! Intelligent Design is a science stopper!
Expelled is, from main title to end title, only a heavy-handed criticism of Evolution. If I wanted to convince people that my book is the Great American Novel, then, instead of letting everybody read, it I spent all my time vilifying its detractors, should I be surprised that nobody takes me seriously?
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed portrays itself as a voice crying in the wilderness. It is instead an insincere, factually challenged polemic in the form of a whiny complaint. Expelled should have been called, “No Intelligence Displayed.”
Throughout most of his legal life, his religious opinion can be said to have been Unitarian. Said Holmes, “the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered that I was not God.”